Rays starter Matt Moore entered this season with the reputation of being a slow starter, even in the Minor Leagues. Yet when he takes the mound Saturday against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, Moore will be looking to become the first pitcher in franchise history to win five games in the season's opening month.
The right-hander has been nearly untouchable, compiling a 4-0 record to go along with a Major League-best 1.04 ERA. Not bad for a guy who went 0-1 with a 4.68 ERA in four April starts a season ago.
"Probably because we've talked about it so much," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We made such a big issue about it, he wanted to prove us wrong."
And prove them wrong he has.
Moore has allowed two or fewer hits in three of his four starts and is coming off his longest outing of the season Monday against the Yankees. The 23-year-old limited the Yanks to one run off two hits, while striking out a season-high nine batters.
"[Moore] was good," said Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells, who struck out in all three of his plate appearances against Moore. "He gave you opportunities to hit a pitch, and if you missed it, you were going to be walking back to the dugout. He's got great stuff, a quality arm, can overpower you, can beat you with his offspeed stuff. He's good."
As Moore looks to continue his phenomenal season-opening run Saturday, White Sox veteran starter Gavin Floyd will simply be looking to pick up his first victory. Floyd, 0-3 with a 4.98 ERA through four starts, has fallen victim to the slow start Moore had previously been accustomed to throughout his professional career.
Floyd showed signs of improvement in his most recent outing, conceding just one run off three hits over six innings on Sunday against the Twins, but settled for the no-decision in an eventual 5-3 loss. It also doesn't help that Chicago has managed just nine total runs in his four outings.
The key to breaking into the win column for Floyd will be controlling his deceiving breaking ball, something White Sox manager Robin Ventura is confident will happen sooner rather than later.
"I guess with everybody that curveball comes and goes. His is sharp," Ventura said. "It's a big break, so I'm sure it's a feel pitch. When it warms up, it'll be better for him. But it's a big pitch for him. It's one he has to have the feel and feel good with it."
Rays: Escobar planning on Saturday return
After missing two games because of tightness in his right hamstring, Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar is hoping he'll be able to return to the lineup on Saturday.
Escobar, who initially left Wednesday's game early, worked out and went through a normal pregame routine Friday without any issues. Whether or not he finds himself in the lineup on Saturday will depend on how his hamstring reacts to all of Friday's activity.
As for as Escobar can tell, he believes he'll be ready to go.
"I respectfully listen and we'll see how he is in the morning," Maddon said.
White Sox: Keppinger, Wise both day to day
Second baseman Jeff Keppinger and center fielder Dewayne Wise were unavailable in Friday night's 5-4 victory and both are listed as day to day.
Keppinger, replaced by Tyler Greene on Friday, is dealing with lower back spasms that started at the end of Thursday's series opener. Keppinger had recorded three consecutive multi-hit games prior to missing Friday's contest.
"That's why you have extra guys," Ventura said. "You get them in there and play and make due. It's one of those things you get him healthy first. There's no sense in sending him out there if he's not feeling good."
As for Wise, the outfielder was scratched from Friday's original starting lineup and replaced by Jordan Danks because of a stiff neck.
• White Sox catcher Hector Gimenez hit his first big league home run in Friday night's 5-4 victory.
• Only four other Rays pitchers -- David Price (2012), James Shields ('12), Matt Garza ('10) and Andy Sonnanstine ('08) -- had ever won four games in the month of April.